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O/NSO: Ranking the 2016 road trips edition

By Greg Katz – WeAreSC

The Obvious: If you’re a USC Trojans football fan and like to travel to away games, now is the time to either start or continue the process of lining up transportation, accommodations, and sightseeing for the upcoming 2016 season.

The Not So Obvious: Given the need for some advance planning and as a public service for those unsure of doing a “roadie,” the O/NSO ranks this season’s road trips from worst to first with disregard for the actual chronological calendar order of the schedule and any particular bias. We start with the worst road trip of the season, and that may quickly get your attention.

The Obvious: In the Trojans final “road” game of the season, the Cardinal and Gold will “travel” to the Rose Bowl on Nov. 19 to play the UCLA Bruins (kickoff time TBA) in a game that could decide the Pac-12 South Division.

The Not So Obvious: You call this a road trip when both teams sleep in their home game hotel, a majority of fans sleep in their own bed, and the game is played in Southern California? That’s why this is the worst of the worst road trips. Yeah it’s the best crosstown rivalry in the country and it could be the best game of the season, but there is no real sense of travel and that is a critical part of a road trip. Below are some UCLA road game basics:

Airport access to the Rose Bowl: Depending on traffic from LAX it should take around an hour. Now parking at the Rose Bowl is another matter in terms of time. If you’re flying in from out of the area and can avoid LAX, the O/NSO recommends flying into Burbank, which cuts down the commute considerably – like in half – and is an easy ride to the Rose Bowl.
Stadium: Rose Bowl
Capacity: 91,136
Seating Chart: http://www.rosebowlstadium.com/visitor-center/seating-guide
Ticket info: http://www.uclabruins.com/ViewArticle.dbml?&ATCLID=208193510&DB_OEM_ID=30500

Projected Pasadena Weather Forecast: Brisk weather will be expected in late November, especially when the sun goes down. Television will decide the kickoff, so dressing for the elements becomes problematic. If the game is a night kickoff, dress like you’re going to Notre Dame.

Comment: Okay, want to make it a “true” road game and you leave local? Try flying out of LAX to Burbank, rent a room at a Holiday Inn Express and hire an Uber driver to transport you to the game. The game will speak for itself, but spend your travel money on other road trip options.

Road Trip Ranking: 6

The Obvious: The Trojans travel to the University of Arizona for a Pac-12 South battle on Oct. 15 (kickoff time TBA).

The Not So Obvious: Nobody will ever accuse Tucson of being the state of Arizona’s version of Las Vegas without slot machines. Whoever decided to plunk a university in the middle of nowhere deserves this game to be ranked just ahead of the UCLA road trip. Other than the university, there’s really nothing to do unless you are an avid golfer. In terms of the game, the Trojans have had some difficult moments in Arizona Stadium, and it figures this game will be no different Below are some Arizona road game basics:

Airport access to Arizona Stadium: If you’re driving down from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, it should take about 1 hour and 45 minutes by freeway, hopefully with any construction holdups. If you’re flying into Tucson, the drive to the stadium is an easy 15 minutes commute.
Arizona Stadium capacity: 56,000
Seating Chart: http://www.arizonawildcats.com/pdf9/4810916.pdf?KEY=DYGQNTKALNYEVPW.20160511232406&DB_OEM_ID=30700

Ticket info: See seating chart

Projected Tucson Weather Forecast: Tucson can be foreboding at night. The desert can be quite cruel in its weather patterns can be a crapshoot. Depending on the time of kickoff, you better be prepared to dress either for heat or cold.

Comment: Having been to Trojans games at Arizona Stadium, the O/NSO can tell you firsthand that the locals come to root hard for their Wildcats. Although they really get into it, the UofA fans are quite friendly beforehand in the tailgate area, and it’s quite a party atmosphere on the “ University Mall.” There is also a nice food court inside the student union for those that want an enclosed experience should the sun and heat become a factor.

Road Trip Ranking: 5

The Obvious: The Trojans head to Utah for a Sept. 23 game against the Utes in Salt Lake City (7 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT).

The Not So Obvious: After getting past the UCLA and Arizona road trip rankings of “6” and “5”, respectively, finally a trip that is worth considering. An underrated, beautiful setting with the Wasatch Range in the background, the University of Utah is a perfect collegiate tapestry. However, it’s a difficult place for visitors on the field because of the high attitude. Salt Lake City is not a wild college town and the town is quite conservative, but that’s part of its ambiance. Below are some Utah road game basics:

Airport access to Rice-Eccles Stadium: If you don’t get confused by the freeway systems, it should take you 25 minutes to get to the stadium from the SLC airport.
Rice-Eccles capacity: 45,017
Seating Chart: https://seatgeek.com/venues/rice-eccles-stadium/seating-chart
Ticket info: https://utahtickets.com/

Projected Salt Lake City Weather Forecast: It figures to be cold (50s) at some point in the game, and the wind can make things even more challenging. The stadium sits on a hill (think Cal). The fans, especially the organized athletic support group known as “The MUSS,” can get into the game with the best of them. The students are organized to help inspire a victory. Below is additional Utah game information.

Comment: There is something quite quaint as it pertains to Salt Lake City. There is something pure and innocent about the city with the Mormon Church playing a vital role in the surroundings. The old-time streetcars add a specific flavor to the town, and the folks of the area are just plain nice. If you’re looking for something do, go visit the Mormon Church or take a short ride to the Great Salt Lake. In the past, some Trojans have even departed for some skiing in nearby Park City.

Road Trip Ranking: 4

The Obvious: For the first time in several seasons, the Trojans play at the University of Washington on Nov. 12 (kickoff TBD) in renovated Husky Stadium.

The Not So Obvious: Now we’re talking about a real road trip with some definite fun, both from a football and tourist point of view. Seattle is a destination, folks. The last time the Trojans played in Husky Stadium (2009), Pete Carroll’s Trojans were upset by former Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was then guiding the Huskies. Below are some Washington road game basics:

Airport access to Husky Stadium: Depending on traffic, the ride from Sea-Tac Airport is approximately 30 minutes. Traffic does pile up upon exiting the one off-ramp exit from the freeway into Husky Stadium.
Stadium: Husky Stadium
Capacity: 70,083
Seating Chart: http://aviewfrommyseat.com/venue/Husky+Stadium/seating-chart/
Ticket info: http://www.gohuskies.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=30200&ATCLID=208228861&DB_OEM_ID=30200

Projected Seattle Weather Forecast: There is nothing better than the Trojans playing in Seattle, but November will be a challenge with the weather probably not kind to the visiting fans. Expect rain and cold, and the wind will be blowing off the lake, so dress like you’re trying to survive, which you are. Expect to hear plenty of fans “barking” like dogs.

Comment: Seattle is a great city and visiting the Space Needle, Pike’s Market Place, and the first Starbucks is a tourist’s nirvana. The shear beauty is taking in the atmosphere of the Great Northwest is a perfect setting. There is nothing like eating some salmon while looking out at the picturesque Puget Sound.

Road Trip Ranking: 3

The Obvious: After opening the season against Alabama and followed by the Trojans first home game against Utah State, in Game 3 the Trojans travel to Palo Alto to play the Stanford Cardinal on Sept. 17 (5 p.m. PT), which also begins Pac-12 play.

The Not So Obvious: This is a premiere road trip, and the Bay Area Weekender doesn’t have to be all that expensive. There are options for the pocketbook. Stanford University is a small, beautiful campus, but there is a negative. Driving into and out of Stanford Stadium – especially after a night game – can be a nightmare trying to locate your car (think miniature Rose Bowl after a USC/UCLA game). Make sure you know where you’re parked. Below are some Stanford road game basics:

Airport access to Stanford Stadium: From San Francisco International Airport – depending on traffic – figure on a 35-45 minute drive. From San Jose International Airport, it should take around 30 minutes. From either airport, take into consideration the surface street game traffic after you exit the freeway. Stanford is not located right off the freeway.
Stanford Stadium capacity: 50,424
Seating Chart:

Ticket info: http://gostanford.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=FSINGLE&linkID=stanford&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=

Projected Palo Alto Weather Forecast: Being September, the weather for a dusk kickoff should be confortable, but once the sun goes down Palo Alto can get chilly in a hurry.

Comment: If you have some extra cash and are coming in on a Thursday or Friday, stay in downtown San Francisco and hit all the tourist spots like Chinatown, Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It doesn’t get much better than that. In fact, visit the wonderful and educational Disney Family Museum in the Presidio, which is located near the Golden Gate Bridge. Then there is the option of crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito for lunch or dinner and/or maybe the unique little town of Tiburon, which also has some romantic settings for a sunset dinner. Just tell’em the O/NSO sent you.

Ranking: 2

The Obvious: The Trojans 2016 season opens with Game 1 on the road, Sept. 3, against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium (7 p.m. local time/5 p.m. PT).

The Not So Obvious: This baby has got to be the top road trip of 2016, and it’s a neutral site game. It has everything from two storied football programs, CFP implications, national primetime television exposure, a city of history, and, of course, AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. You might be interested to know that “Jerry’s World,” nicknamed after Dallas Cowboys owner and flamboyant businessman Jerry Jones built his stadium of opulence, is actually located in Arlington, a suburb just outside Dallas. The stadium is also next to the stadium home of the baseball Texas Rangers and Six Flags Amusement Park is right there, as well. Below are some Dallas road game basics:

DFW Airport access to AT&T Stadium: It’s approximately 25-30 minutes from this airport to the stadium depending on traffic. Again depending on traffic, approximately 40 minutes from downtown Dallas. Texans tell the O/NSO that Saturday traffic should not as bad as during a workweek. However, the Texas Rangers will be playing an afternoon game across the street on game day, so take that into consideration.
AT&T Stadium capacity: 80,000
Seating Chart: http://www.ticketmaster.com/advocare-classic-arlington-texas-09-032016/event/0C005097B13D2091?artistid=1260912&majorcatid=10004&minorcatid=8
Ticket info: Listed with seating chart.

Projected Tempe Weather Forecast: There is heat and humidity… and then there is Texas heat and humidity. The thermometer figures to be near or at 100 degrees with extremely high humidity so be careful. The good news is that AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof and it figures to be shut.

Comment: Playing in the famed home of the Dallas Cowboys against the defending national champions should be exhilarating, and sightseeing in Dallas is really icing on the cake. There’s the assassination site of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza , which is coordinated with The 6th Floor Museum (the former Dallas Book Depository Building from where the deadly gunshots were allegedly executed by Lee Harvey Oswald). A short distance west down the freeway road is the George W. Bush Presidential Library. If you’re looking for a theme park, next to AT&T Stadium in Arlington is Six Flags Amusement Park. This road trip is at the national championship level.

Road Trip Ranking: 1

The Obvious: And finally, if you’ve never been to a road USC football game, you don’t what you’re missing. It’s a blast, but make sure your destination will provide with the most bang for the buck.

The Not So Obvious: Make sure if you decide to attend a road game, you have an idea of why you are going, what you really want see, and what you want to do after the game. The O/NSO guarantees you that if you decide wisely, you’ll also be hooked for 2017, which is headlined by a trip back to Notre Dame – The Notre Dame Weekender – and the hospitality of the Midwest.

Greg Katz
Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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